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Stowaway's mom alarmed by trip

"He always wanted to see me," says the Somali, a refugee from Islamic militants

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 02:53 a.m. HST, Apr 29, 2014

The Somali woman lives in a stick hut covered by ragged blankets in this dusty refugee camp. It was to here that her 15-year-old son wanted to travel on a perilous journey as a stowaway on a plane from Cali­for­nia.

Ubah Mohammed Abdule hasn't seen her boy — who has been hospitalized on Oahu since landing on Maui last week in the wheel well of a jetliner — for eight years.

Clutching her black-and-white head covering, she wept Sunday as she stood before the flimsy shelter holding her meager possessions and spoke about her son Yahya Abdi.

She was alarmed, she said, by the dangerous journey the teenager undertook. Those who stow away in plane wheel wells have little chance of surviving, and many who attempt it are Africans desperate for a better life in Europe or America.

Abdi had been unhappy in Cali­for­nia and desperately missed his mother, according to those who know his family. So on April 20 he hopped a fence at San Jose International Airport and climbed into the wheel well of a jetliner bound for Hawaii. Somehow he survived the 51⁄2-hour trip over the Pacific, despite extreme cold and low oxygen levels. He has not spoken publicly about the ordeal.

"I knew he was an intelligent boy who has strong affections for me. I also knew he always wanted to see me, but I know his father won't let them contact me at all," Abdule told a reporter in this remote camp in eastern Ethiopia.

The boy had recently learned she was alive after being told by his father that she was dead, Abdule said. She said her ex-husband took Abdi and his two siblings to Cali­for­nia without her knowing and that she hadn't heard from them since 2006.

"He first took the children away from me to Sudan. Then he came back to Somalia and demanded my consent for him to take the children to the U.S. if I wanted a formal divorce. I was not OK with that and said no," Abdule said through tears. "Finally, he took all three of my children to the U.S. without my knowledge."

The boy's father, Abdil­ahi Yusuf, said in a statement Sunday issued through a family spokes­man in Cali­for­nia that his son was "struggling adjusting to life" in America.

"Our situation was aggravated by our displacement in Africa for many years after fleeing our home country of Somalia because of war conditions. As a result, my son was not able to receive any formal education before we immigrated to the United States," the statement said.

Shedder Refugee Camp, in eastern Ethiopia near the border with Somalia, is home to some 10,300 Somalis who fled their country because of Islamic militant violence. Most Somalis here are from minority groups who face persecution.

Abdule, 33, arrived in the camp in early 2010, after fleeing heavy fighting in the Somali capital, Mogadishu. She earns a small income selling vegetables in the camp market.

Late last year an acquaintance at the camp, Uways Salad Jama, who had resettled in Cali­for­nia, was able to contact Abdi and his siblings with the news that their mother was alive and living in Shedder Camp, said a spokes­woman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Fati Le­jeune Kaba.

"The kids were very disappointed and ended up in a fight with their father and asked him to send them back to where their mother lived," Kaba said by phone from Geneva. "The father still insisted that their mother had died.

"At that point Yahya Abdi didn't believe that his mother had died, and that's when he resorted to do everything he can to go and find her."

Abdule was distraught after she learned of her son's ordeal from a friend who lives in the U.S., said Kibe­bew Abera, a camp official.

"She was panicked. With the support of our partners, we provided her with advice and consultation," he said.

Tears rolling down her cheeks, Abdule said she wants to leave the camp and reunite with her children and has asked the Ethiopian government and the U.N. refugee agency to help her do so.

"My son was silent but intelligent when he was with me. I know he concealed himself in a plane to see me," Abdule said.

The teen's father said he plans to fly to Hawaii soon to reunite with him and is "excited to bring him back home to his family in Cali­for­nia." The family was "deeply concerned" when the boy went missing and was relieved to hear he was safe, Yusuf said.

On Monday the state Department of Human Services said the 15-year-old remains in a local hospital under custody of the state Child Welfare Services.

Abdule said she hasn't been able to eat since learning of her son's misadventure. She said she has visions of her ex-husband not properly caring for their children.

"I prefer they be with me rather than live with a stepmother in the U.S.," said Abdule, who has two other children, an 8-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter, living with her in the camp.

Abdule may yet be able to reunite with her children in the U.S., U.N. officials said.

She has passed her first interview with the U.N. refugee agency's list of those who might qualify to immigrate to America, said a legal protection officer at the refugee camp, Abdl­ra­sak Abas Omar. If she passes the next phase, he said, she could move to the U.S. in less than a year.


Associated Press Writer Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.

Elias Meseret, Associated Press

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clum56 wrote:
Great let's allow another Somalian refugee into our country. I sure hope that the state will be collecting the money for having their son in one of our health care facilities for the past 10 days. No free rides in our state
on April 29,2014 | 05:52AM
rnamiki wrote:
Send that stupid "skinny" back to that HELL hole Somalia.
on April 29,2014 | 06:20AM
gofigga wrote:
That's what he wanted, Send him back to be reunited with his mother... end of story.
on April 29,2014 | 07:30PM
loio wrote:
I believe we already have enough Somali's with no education or skills, and likely to be on welfare. Look at what's happened in Minnesota, especially Minneapolis. Enough already.
on April 29,2014 | 06:22AM
Pocho wrote:
Hope President Barrack Obama will open the US doors for these refugees fleeing these WAR mongering Islamic Fanatics. Look how they live almost like the homeless we already have on the streets, in parks, etc. But she's trying to survive, working selling goods. Think a lot of these Somali's could be an asset to Society here in the States
on April 29,2014 | 06:44AM
beachbum11 wrote:
And our own people are not taken care of,but with Pocho he does not think so. Maybe they can move in with him. That's a good start. You give our peop Le a bad name.
on April 29,2014 | 07:34AM
powersohana wrote:
I think "beachbum11" gives himself a bad name, hence the name "beachbum"... This is a boy, a scared 15 year old boy. Have you no compassion? I'm appalled at the self righteousness, racism and arrogance of some of these commenters. For a young boy to do this, it takes both a courage and intense fear that hopefully most of us have never known.
on April 29,2014 | 08:36AM
makiki123 wrote:
Gees! How many more stories are we going to hear about this boy and his mother. It is an issue for them to figure out and we should not be asked to help these people. We have enough problems in our own country and let's take care of our own first.
on April 29,2014 | 07:01AM
loquaciousone wrote:
It's not over yet. This morning his brother and sister were on tv contracting every thing we've heard so far. It won't end till they dig up his great great great grandparents and interview them.
on April 29,2014 | 07:16AM
loquaciousone wrote:
We should let him return home and join the ranks of the national occupation - piracy.
on April 29,2014 | 07:14AM
laachang wrote:
on April 29,2014 | 07:32AM
mcc wrote:
The SA is really bleeding this story. Lazy journalism. One paper town, this is what we get.
on April 29,2014 | 07:42AM
2localgirl wrote:
it's time to drop this sad story. More refugees, and most probably not ones able to support themselves. They have their home in another country. It is up to that country to care for their own. The USA is no longer able to bail out the entire world, look at the mess we are in in our own country. We can't care for ourselves! Sorry, not the worlds care taker any longer....
on April 29,2014 | 09:08AM
Alex57 wrote:
Enough already, this story is just sappy. Charity begins at home and the USA and Hawaii need lots of help. We can no longer help the rest of the world before ourselves.
on April 29,2014 | 03:56PM
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